Review on " The Canadian Jewish News"-

Toronto’s Trane Studio was packed recently when the Ori Dakari Quartet made their way onto the stage, to play the first show of a scheduled three-city Canadian tour, with stops in Edmonton and Calgary.

Jazz enthusiasts sat in anticipation, watching as the Israeli band commenced into graceful, unprecedented, improvised jazz. The result was a charming and tranquil evening of unscripted jazz.

Guitarist Ori Dakari made a name for himself in the so-called “radical Jewish culture" scene of New York, where he moved in 2007. His debut CD, Entrances, in 2009, was released on composer/producer John Zorn’s Tzadik Records.

On Entrances, Dakari, playing the roles of lead guitarist and composer, was accompanied by three musicians he met in the United States – alto sax player Uri Gurvic, drummer Eric Doob and bassist Takashi Sugawa. Entrances made a strong impression on the international jazz community. With his fellow instrumentalists, Dakari went on to perform in Thailand, Serbia, Russia and Israel before making his way to Toronto for his Canadian debut.

At Trane Studio, the foursome wasted no time in displaying the range of their influences and styles, transitioning from contemporary jazz to Middle Eastern tambour, from relentless bass solo to a North African-inspired medley.

Each member displayed his own brand of musical prowess at least once throughout the evening, standing at the forefront of the group’s unified musical direction. Two enjoyable moments of merit, respectively, were when Gurvich brought out the flute and when Doob fashioned upbeat, African-embraced rhythms with the bongos.

The sessions were intimate and intense, the musicians playing together in earnest, developing off one another’s melodies. The Middle Eastern sets were high-spirited, with Dakari leading the way as the ensemble presented their interpretation of Israeli music, fused with jazz in its core. It was certainly an enlivening experience, though thoroughly as endearing were the softer, more subtle moments throughout the evening. Various solos transpired, with some instances of discernible North African medleys. Exotic would be one way to characterize the session, and during the finale, it could even be called experimental.

Jazz is a broad term. As such, scholars have had difficulty defining it, though they have agreed that it remains in a state of perpetual metamorphosis. Though the majority of their set remained within the confines of contemporary jazz, the Ori Dakari Quartet managed to give a little something extra to the traditional-jazz pundit. They offered fans the good fortune of sitting in a relaxed, casual venue lit by candles, while the music urged them to dance the horah. A rare occasion indeed.

Born and raised in Kfar Saba, Dakari was acclaimed as an “outstanding musician" by the Israeli army and the Israeli ministry of culture when he was only 18 years old.

The quartet was brought to Toronto by the Ashkenaz Foundation, which has brought an exceptionally diverse lineup of musicians to the city. It has promised more spirited shows to come in 2012. Mind you, this evening of fruitful, Israeli swayed jazz will be hard to top.


Interview on Edmonton Journal -

Dakari's entrance

Israeli guitarist Ori Dakari ( has managed to create a gripping, sophisticated fusion of jazz and his Middle Eastern musical roots. He says it's less by design than an instinctual thing.

"I'm just trying not to think too much and to let the music happen naturally," he says. "That's just the way things came out."

At the same time he has noticed some parallels between his roots music and jazz.

"Half of my family is from Yemen, and I think the role of harmony is quite similar between their music and the later music of John Coltrane."

You can hear both the folk influences and his love of Coltrane from the start on Entrances, Dakari's self-produced release on John Zorn's Tzadik label. While the sessions have an impressive interactive feel, the tracks are grounded in accessible all-original tunes, creating jazz with an alluring international flavour.

Growing up in the musically rich Israeli city of Kfar-Saba, Dakari heard various strains of traditional music, absorbing it by osmosis even though he admits he didn't appreciate it much as a youth. His first exposure to jazz came from a teacher and from a nightly radio show, inspiring him to take up guitar at 12.

"It's hard to explain but somehow the music caught me. It was challenging and made me want to explore more."

Dakari went on to serve as a musician in the Israeli army for three years, playing mostly mainstream material, but he's still glad for the confidence he gained playing almost every day during that period.

Winning a scholarship to study at Boston's Berklee College for two years exposed him to a wider range of jazz, many more musicians and to the legacy of John Coltrane. He also began composing.

"While I was there I came to understand more about the role of music in society and came to see that jazz was also a folk music in a sense for Americans. That pushed me to find my connection and to bring more of my culture into the jazz world."

Following Berklee, he made a move to New York in 2007 to gain more experience. Connections eventually brought him to John Zorn. Two years later, he returned to Israel in part to study traditional music. From his Tel Aviv base, he is developing an international career.

When Dakari (playing hollow-body electric) makes his debut here Saturday his quartet will include saxophonist Uri Gurvich, a friend and musical collaborator since high school, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and drummer Ronen Itzik.

Review on "Jazz Times"

Israeli guitarist Ori Dakari attended Berklee on a scholarship and has for the last few years been flying under the radar on the New York scene. On his outstanding debut, the talented guitarist-composer seamlessly blends Eastern European and North African influences with touches of klezmer, resulting in a compelling mex of evocative, ECM-ish jazz and world music. Uri Gurvich supplies sharp alto sax work alongside the guitarist's warm-toned, searching lines on the dramatic opener, "Beresheet," and the stirring "Besora", while crakling drummer Eric Doob enlivens the proceedings with his intuitive, highly interactive pulse. Dakari demonstrates his fondness for melodicism on the mellow "Tzabar," an affecting number imbued with Middle Eastern-tinged lines and underscored by Mika Nishimura's Fender Rhodes work. He strikes a poignant chord on the beautiful ballad "Remembrance" and on the melancholy closer, "A song for my Safta," which he performs as a sparse solo piano piece.

by Bill Milkowski- Jazz Times Magazine- Oct 10 issue

Guitarist Ori Dakari's music fuses the seemingly disparate worlds of modern jazz and the folk and ethnic musics of North Africa and Eastern Europe.

The first thing I noticed on his debut CD, Entrances, was the ease with which Dakari's compositions and improvisations incorporate all of these influences without watering them down or sounding gimmicky or cute. The music on Entrances, while somewhat less iconoclastic and more earnest than most of the offerings from the Tzadik label, is a passionate, soulful and thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. The young Israeli sticks to a clean jazz guitar sound, unadorned by electronic effects, and his composing – though clearly informed by the traditional music of his homeland - is rooted in the mid-60s/early-70s indie jazz ethic that sprung up during the most adventurous days of the Blue Note label and was carried forward by the great Black-owned and operated independents such as Strata East. The hard-hitting, incantatory "Sun," for example, reminded me of some of McCoy Tyner's work from the early 70's. Middle eastern soul-jazz, anyone?

Dakari's band on "Entrances" is comprised of gifted young musicians he encountered in the US over the past few years. This was my first experience hearing any of them, and I came away quite impressed. Drummer Eric Doob (now gigging with saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Paquito D'Rivera), saxophonist Uri Gurvich (whose own fine debut CD, “The Storyteller," was also issued by Tzadik in 2009), and pianist Mika Nishimura – like Dakari – have all studied at Berklee, while bassist Takashi Sugawa has played with Gurvich in a variety of settings in New York. They prove to be quite simpatico with Dakari's unique musical vision, and provide numerous inspired and creative contributions throughout “Entrances."

Entrances is a well-calibrated mix of fiery up-tempo tunes and mellower, more reflective pieces – all composed by Dakari. The opening track, "Beresheet," has a bit of each: it opens with a lovely minor-keyed rubato motif that transitions into a driving Latin-ish 4/4 before tumbling into a Klezmer-like breakdown. Doob's drumming stands out – he handles the piece's changing rhythmic accents and multiple tempi with effortless grace, while accentuating improvisations by Gurvich, and Dakari with well-placed and beautifully-executed fills. Doob works well with bassist Sugawa, who, like Doob, is a high-energy presence throughout this fine CD. Gurvich's saxophone work is soulful and easy to like – he has a pleasant, broad tone and builds his solos slowly and thoughtfully, though not without surprises. I especially enjoyed his work on 'Besora' – where he's accompanied only by Doob and Sugawa's pulsing Latin-derived rhythms. Nishimura is featured prominently on a few of the slower pieces. "Tzabar" benefits from her gentle touch on the Fender Rhodes, and her acoustic piano solos on "Rememberance" and "Zehut" are intelligent and pleasant to listen to.

Entrances is an impressive debut by a fine young guitarist and composer who has a lot to say. I am already looking forward to the follow-up!
Dec 09-

What an impressive debut! The Israeli guitarist (by way of the Berklee College in Boston and then NYC) fits perfectly into the Tzadik worldview, although perhaps Dakari's music is a tad more mainstream than the usual output from Zorn and co. The melodic material throughout Entrances is heavily influenced by Jewish and middle-eastern tonalities, but presented in a very contemporary post-bop kind of way. Together with fellow traveler Uri Gurvich, whose alto playing matches Dakari neck and neck, the leader uses his meditative structures and tonalities to leap off into swirling improvisations.
Also deserving special mention is Eric Doob, a hyper-dynamic drummer in the vein of someone like Jeff Ballard or Eric Harland. Doob delivers much of the punch that nudges this disc into a higher territory. Gurvich and Dakari are focused on clear tone and melodic invention, with not a lot of grit in their playing, which is what Doob brings to the party. Check out the conversation that's happening between Doob and Takashi Sugawa on bass under Gurvich's solo on "Besora." Gurvich is mostly floating over it, but the rhythm section doesn't mind. They're happily kickboxing and knocking each other out of the ring.
Other standouts are the waltz (if you can call it that) "So Far Yet So Close," once again pitting a singing melody against a maelstrom of a rhythm section. When Dakari steps up for his solo here, his thought process is so transparent you can see the melodic development almost before it happens. Like Gurvich, he's never one to let go of control, no matter how much Doob might goad him, instead pushing into the upper register for an almost rock star moment of repeated riffs before Gurvich brings it all back.
The ballad "Remembrance" ventures a little towards ECM territory, perhaps propelled by Mika Nishimura's piano playing, or more correctly, the way the piano is recorded. However, "Remembrance" is nice in that it gives Nishimura a bit more of the spotlight, where elsewhere the piano sort of disappears into the music.
As a composer, Dakari is clearly quite sophisticated, relying often on ostinato patterns to set up a groove under his undulating melodies. But where a lesser writer might take the middle-eastern modality into stereotypical territory, Dakari always throws some little twist into his melodies, turning down side streets to avoid the main thoroughfare. He's clearly at home with this kind of modality, and even if many Tzadik releases rely pretty heavily on so-called klezmer scales, Dakari's gift for melody separates him from Tzadik-as-usual (if there is such a thing).

October 2009

Guitarist Ori Dakari blends modern jazz with Israeli, East European, Yemenite and North-African music making for an interesting and thoughtful sound. On this, debut LP, he is accompanied by Uri Gurvich on alto sax, Takashi Sugawa on bass, Mika Nishimura on piano and Eric Doob on drums. The lengthy and complex "Beresheet" opens the album with some nice saxophone led improvisation and a strong Middle Eastern feel. "Sun" is another highlight, with a darker sounding melody, and a slinky guitar solo building to an intense conclusion. Strong too is "Besora," with a full band collective improvisation led by Gurvich who sounds brawny and deep. I like his sound a lot, apparently he has a new disc out on Tzadik as well and I'll have to keep an eye out for that. Dakari takes the lead on guitar for the stinging "So Far Yet So Close." The group succeeds on ballads as well, "Tzabar" throttles things back a little bit with milder saxophone and some probing guitar from the leader, and "Remembrance" is a deeply meditative performance with gentle lullaby like guitar and slow piano. This was a solid debut album from a promising musician and band. If Dakari defers to his colleagues a little to much, it's out of respect for their abilities, not because of a lack of things to say. He's a democratic bandleader who makes the most of the people collaborating with him and this bodes well for future albums.

March 2009 -